Every thriving community has that one person that displays loads of positive energy, thinks bigger than the community itself, and truly cares about the people in it. Angie Batton is that person. She’s been hiding her superwoman cape under a blazer for far too long and I finally got the opportunity to pick her brain.
The Pushmataha Family Medical Center of Boswell just celebrated their one-year anniversary. When these clinics pop up, most of us don’t stop and think about how they got there. They’re businesses, they come and they go. But this business is special. It was brought together by a handful of passionate people that grew up in rural Oklahoma and knew this was something the community desperately needed. It’s for their neighbors, their friends, their family. My first intention was to write about the Boswell Clinic's anniversary but as the story unfolded, I was filled with admiration for Angie.
It all started in '04 when she was working at the little clinic in Clayton at the end of town, then named Pushmataha Rural Health Clinic. It was owned by the hospital in Antlers, Oklahoma and was the only health care facility Clayton and Northern Pushmataha County had. Angie said they were always hurting for space - shoving equipment in closets and when those were full, they placed it in the hallway and kept on moving.
Angie was a floor nurse at the time and after she and her co-workers were out of space and options, four of them grouped together with A Better Clayton (ABC) coalition, the Oklahoma Primary Care Association (OKPCA) and the Little Dixie Community Action Agency and wrote a grant to start a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) for Pushmataha County and the surrounding areas. What happened after that was nothing short of a blessing. They got their wish. Funding came through in October of '05 and they saw their very first patient in January '06 as a federally qualified health center.
The new Pushmataha Family Medical Clinic was now able to offer a sliding fee scale to people who weren’t able to previously afford health care. They started getting around 3,000 - 4,000 visits a year - in a town of 700. A need was clearly being filled and the staff stayed determined to make it work. As patients flooded in, everyone scrambled for more space. Thinking outside the box, they turned their waiting room into more medical rooms and moved their business office next door into the old NAPA building. They had about 3,000 sq ft to work with.
Finally, in May 2012 they received another grant to build a brand new structure. With lots of hard work in place, they proudly opened the doors to a 14,000 sq ft building on June 4, 2014. As the staff took a deep breath to admire their accomplishment, Angie informed them the fun had just begun.
As a long shot, she and the Board of Directors had submitted for a New Access Point grant to expand their practice to another location in rural Oklahoma, a place that was always overlooked for health care. The town of Boswell and the surrounding areas had no place to locally go. Angie and her team reached out to the town's mayor and the city council, then got approval to hold a public meeting. "Everyone was so supportive," Angie says. The town was excited by the possibility. Their dream became a reality a week after the Grand Opening Ceremony of the new Clayton facility. Boswell got their grant.
The Boswell location saw their first patient on September 2, 2015. It's a smaller space than the Clayton clinic but it's growing fast - this isn't their first rodeo. What Angie, the staff, and the Board of Directors have accomplished is nothing short of inspiring. The amount of work it takes to get a proposal to the government alone is huge - the numbers, the permissions, the research…
Starting as a floor nurse, Angie is now in her 7th year as CEO. It’s no surprise that she was awarded Leader of the Year by the Oklahoma Primary Care Association in 2014. They started with four employees and now have 33 between both locations. And if you think they’re going to stop there, you’d be mistaken. Angie continues to look for ways to help these rural communities thrive. She raves about her staff and the Board of Directors. "They're as passionate about these clinics as I am." Many have been together through the long hall and are hometown guys and gals.
So next time you go into one of the clinics, take a minute to look around. Everything you’ll see was built with more than brick and mortar. It was created by people who truly care, and I can’t think of a better place to go for your well-being.
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